Georgetown Commercial Buildings, M Street and Wisconsin Avenue

Georgetown's commercial history began on the waterfront as a shipping center.

Tobacco was the lifeblood of the community of Georgetown when it was founded. Because of this, in 1745, a "Rolling House" for the inspection and trade of the crop was called for by the Maryland legislature. Completed in 1747, the Rolling House stimulated the growth of the settlement. Licenses for taverns were issued, and soon commerce and industry developed on the waterfront including warehouses, wharves, sailor's taverns, flour mills, and a fleet of ships.

During the American Revolution, Georgetown served as a depot for the collection and shipment of military supplies. When the town was incorporated in 1789, it continued to thrive with its mix of textile mills, flour mills, and paper factory. By an act of Congress, Georgetown was made the port of entry for imported goods for all the waters and shores from the Pomonky Creek north of the Potomac River, to the head of the navigable waters of the Potomac. Further stimulating the economy, the opening of the canal system of the Potomac Canal Company from 1785 to 1802 made Georgetown a terminal port at tidewater for much of the western trade.

Georgetown was profoundly affected by the establishment of the District of Columbia as the nation's capital. Although Georgetown was included in the new District, it retained its distinct character and became the center of Washington's social and diplomatic life in the early part of the 19th century. As the federal city developed, Georgetown's business and social affairs shifted from the waterfront to Bridge Street (now M Street), which became the principal avenue of approach to the new capital from the west. Many legislators and their families stayed in the Georgetown hotels and taverns, as well as did their shopping there as well.

In 1835, Congress granted a charter to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company to build a canal that Georgetown hoped would provide economic vitality to their town. Due to the simultaneous creation of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, the prosperity of the canal as a major trade route never occurred.

DC Inventory: November 8, 1964 (Joint Committee on Landmarks)
Within Georgetown Historic District



2803, 2919, 3056, 3068, 3072, 3112, 3116, 3209, 3211, & 3232 M Street, NW; 1216, 1219, 1221, 1249, 1304, 1515, 1517, 1522, 1524, 1527, & 1529 Wisconsin Avenue NW